30 states require tattoo artists to provide aftercare instructions, and rightly so. Proper aftercare is super important for maintaining the integrity of the design and preventing infections.
Saniderm Tattoo Healing
Every tattoo artist has their own preference for tattoo healing, and the shop I went to – Canvas Tattoo & Art Gallery in Charlotte – prefers tattoo aftercare via Saniderm, an adhesive bandage that lets the tattoo “breathe” while protecting the healing skin from environmental exposure at the same time. Interestingly, similar bandages are used for burn victims.
The folks at Saniderm explain that because recently tattooed skin is indeed an “open wound,” appropriate aftercare is essential to not only make sure the quality of your new ink stays intact, but also to prevent unwanted infections that could ruin your tattoo and be really dangerous. The Saniderm bandage keeps newly tattooed skin moist and clean during the first few days after the initial tattooing when the skin is the most vulnerable.
After completing the tattoo, the fabulous Grace Jang at Canvas (who also designed my tattoo, check out her insta) put a Saniderm bandage on my arm and gave me these instructions:
- Remove Saniderm bandage after 12-24 hours, gently clean tattoo with antibiotic soap, and pat dry with a paper towel.
- Put another Saniderm bandage on and leave it on for five days.
- No scratching or soaking my arm (no baths, but showers okay) for 3 weeks.
- After removing Saniderm, keep tattoo moist with moisturizing lotion to prevent scarring, which could affect the tattoo design.
I followed her instructions meticulously, and three weeks later, my tattoo looks fabulous. There was a bit of (expected) peeling and it was a little itchy, but I kept it clean and moisturized and everything was fine.
So why is it imperative to keep a new tattoo moisturized? The healing wound will dry up and form a scab (like wounds tend to do) if you don’t keep it moist. While scab formation is a normal part of topical wound healing, excessive scabbing can warp the design of a tattoo as the body gets rid of “damaged” skin cells (in this case, tattooed skin cells likely important to the integrity of your design) and replaces them with new skin cells. Together, using Saniderm immediately after getting a tattoo and relying on moisturizing lotion in days after that is a great way to compromise with your immune system – protecting skin cells without ruining your new tattoo.
Other types of tattoo healing
General advice from MedlinePlus recommends covering a fresh tattoo with petroleum ointment followed with plastic wrap/bandage for at least a few hours. After removing the bandage, wash the tattoo with soap and water and apply more petroleum ointment. After this point, you’re essentially letting the wound heal naturally, keeping it moisturized and protected from the sun. Most experts will advise not scratching the tattoo while it heals and not soaking it in water.